NY Times Caucus: Level of White Support for Obama a Surprise

NY Times Caucus

Level of White Support for Obama a Surprise

If Tuesday’s election were confined to white America, polls show, Senator Barack Obama would lose.

And yet Mr. Obama’s strength across racial lines lies at the heart of his lead in the polls over Senator John McCain heading into Election Day. Remarkably, Mr. Obama, the first black major party presidential nominee, trails among whites by less than Democratic nominees normally do.

America’s political parties grew decisively polarized by race after 1964, the year President Lyndon Johnson signed civil rights legislation that his Republican presidential opponent, Barry Goldwater, opposed. Since then, election pollsters estimate, Democratic nominees have averaged 39 percent of the white vote. In last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll, Mr. Obama drew 44 percent support among whites — a higher proportion than Bill Clinton captured in his general election victories.

Analysts ascribe that success to changing racial attitudes, Mr. Obama’s deftness, Republican missteps and the economic crisis. Whatever the cause, when combined with his two-to-one edge among Hispanics and his 10-to-1 edge among blacks, it has given him a national election-eve lead.

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